Left is right.

With all the cinema and animation out there, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all been done before. But every once in a while something comes along, that blows away the perceptions of limits on what we can do.

One such work is a short pilot video titled Hidari, directed by Masashi Kawamura and produced by Whatever Co. It’s so good, let’s watch it first and I’ll explain after.

As we can immediately see, unlike other stop-motion animations, Hidari uses puppets carved from wood. And while wooden stop-motion has been done in the past, it has never been done quite like this by seamlessly employing anime-style action sequences.

The main character in the story is Hidari Jingoro, who is based on an artist of the same name who is believed to have lived in the early 17th century. Although there are real wood carvings that have been attributed to him, his life is shrouded in legend and folktales to the point that we’re not sure if he even really existed. Although stories differ, one common theme is that he lost his right arm at one point and took on the name “Hidari,” which means “left” in Japanese.

▼ Hidari Jingoro as depicted by Hidari (left) and famed ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (right). In the wood block version he’s using the saw to carve wooden lions that come to life and chase the bad guys.

Hidari takes that theme and runs with it at lightspeed as our hero saws a violent path of revenge with an arsenal of carving tools. But rather than the fountains of blood that grace many samurai films, Jingoro sends streams of sawdust with each swing of his blade in a video drenched in a love of woodworking.

Despite the over-the-top action, the full story is also steeped in actual Japanese history such as the construction of Edo Castle – which Jingoro loses a hand in building – and the Great Fire of Meireki that devastated most of the pre-modern capital city of Edo, where Tokyo now stands.

▼ The villain of Hidari, Inamaru, set up Jingoro and the other carpenters working on Edo Castle to be killed.

The protagonist’s cat companion is also based on the carving of a sleeping cat that he is said to have made for Nikko Tosho-gu in Tochigi Prefecture in 1617.

Unfortunately that short clip above is all that has been produced of a potential full-length feature animation. To help, the producers are hoping to raise awareness of Hidari and gain support through crowdfunding and the festival circuit. A Kickstarter campaign has begun and will run until 25 April and a screening of the pilot, along with a panel discussion, will be held at the Niigata International Animation Film Festival on 21 March.

Judging by the rave reviews the pilot has gotten in only a day on YouTube from around the world, funding ought to be a foregone conclusion.

“This looks super unique in the stop-motion animation world. Super excited to see the entire film!”
“There was so much creativity on display! I hope you can get your Kickstarter funded!”
“This is the true masterpiece. I have never ever seen any stop-motion like this, I enjoyed it very very much.”
“This film was simply mind-blowing …. incredibly superb choreography, animation, SFX etc etc …. superb work, Masa and the entire team!!!!”
“Oh my god!!! This just kept getting better and better! I’m so impressed, not only by the choreography and animation, but by the overall ambience, texture, and presence of this film.”
“I’ve very rarely been this excited for something, the creativity on display here is just breathtaking to witness. Hope you get all the recognition you deserve!”

With so much style, historical substance, and originality in Hidari, it would be a tragedy if the entire film doesn’t get realized. So, head on over to Kickstarter and show your support if you can!

Source, images: PR Times
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